Monthly Archives: September 2010

“The Apostles Were On Television. They Had Co-Starring Roles On the Show Duplicity!” – John 1:47-51†


 

87 Days till CHRISTMAS!!

 

Do you have your ADVENT wreath cleaned and ready!

 

(And have you bought my gift yet?  He, he)

 

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   235 – St Pontianus ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   855 – Benedict III begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1637 – Lorenzo Ruiz, Filipino saint
†  1642 – Death René Goupil, French Catholic missionary, one of Canadian Martyrs (b. 1608)
†   1691 – Birth of Richard Challoner, English Catholic prelate (d. 1781)
†   1850 – The Roman Catholic hierarchy is re-established in England and Wales by Pope Pius IX.
†   1963 – The second period of the Second Vatican Council opens.
†   1979 – Pope John Paul II became the first pope to set foot on Irish soil with his pastoral visit to the Republic of Ireland.
†   2006 – Death Louis-Albert Cardinal Vachon, French Canadian Catholic archbishop of Quebec (b. 1912)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Be fishers of men. You catch ‘em – He’ll clean them.

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Nathanael (Bartholomew) coming to Jesus.

 

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite.  There is no duplicity in him.”  48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”  50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?  You will see greater things than this.”  51 And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”  (NAB John 1:47-51)

 

Nathanael may well have been one of the very first disciples of Jesus, along with his friend Philip (John 1:43-51).  It is generally believed that Nathanael is the Apostle Bartholomew in the Synoptic Gospels.  John does not call Nathanael as “Bartholomew,” but in lists of the Twelve Apostles from the Synoptic Gospels, Bartholomew is designated by his family Bar-Tolmai (meaning son of Tolmai), and it is assumed that it is this specific individual whom John designates by the name Nathanael.  

The main reasons for this assumption are that (1) the circumstances under which Nathanael was called do not differ in solemnity from those connected with the call of Peter, making it only natural that he, as Peter, was numbered among the Twelve; (2) Nathanael is mentioned as being present with other Apostles after the Resurrection described in John 21; and (3) Nathanael was brought to Jesus by Philip (John 1:45).  Also making it significant is that (4) Bartholomew is always mentioned next to Philip in the lists of the Twelve Apostles as given in the Synoptic Gospels.

(Trivia time: “Nathanael” translates to “God has given,” and “Bartholomew” translates to either “son of furrows” [i.e., rich in land] or “son of Ptolemy”.)

What was actually meant when Jesus said that Nathanael was “a true Israelite” and that “there is no duplicity in him?”  Well, to explain this, let’s first look in Genesis 32:29.  Jacob was the first to bear the name “Israel,” when God (through an angel) changed Jacob’s name because he had contended with divine and human beings, and prevailed (he wrestled the angel).  But, Jacob, unlike Nathanael was a man of “duplicity” (being deceitful or disloyal).  Remember, in Genesis 27:35-36, Jacob tricked his brother Esau twice by taking away his birthright, and later his father’s blessing!  Jacobs name definitely fit him: “Jacob” translates to “he who supplants (replaces or ousts someone).”  His new name also fit him as well.  After wrestling with the angel, Jacobs named was changed to “Israel:” meaning “God contended.”

The fig tree in the context of this Gospel reading is a symbol of the messianic peace described in Micah 4:4 and Zechariah 3:10.  Micah talks about men sitting under his fig tree undisturbed when he hears the “Lord” speak.  Zechariah relates that on this day you will invite one another under your fig tree as well.

By Nathanael calling Jesus the “Son of God,” he is using an Old Testament title of adoption for the king of the Davidic line, and thus, the “King of Israel” in a messianic sense.  Being called the “Son of God” also points to Jesus’ divinity; shown later in John 20:28: “Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’”  

With the knowledge just presented about hearing Jesus talk, and all sitting under the fig tree (a tree that gave life through the oil for lamps, food, medicine, and wood – all from the fig and tree itself), and now realizing that Jesus was prophesized in the Old Testament genealogical line; Thomas’ exclaiming to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” forms a true scholarly inclusion with the very first verse of John’s Gospel: “and the Word was God.”

The double “Amen” in verse 51 is characteristic of John.  I think of Jesus saying “Amen, Amen” as meaning “Yo, you better listen to this.  It is very important.”  “You” in this verse is actually plural in Greek.  Being from St. Louis, we would just say “You’se.”

And finally, from the same verse 51, “Ascending and descending on the Son of Man” alludes to the “Jacob’s ladder” from Genesis 28:12: “Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s messengers were going up and down on it.”  “Stairway” is “sullam” in Hebrew, and this word is traditionally, but inaccurately translated as “ladder.”  The corresponding verb, “salal,” means “to pile up” something, such as dirt for a highway or ramp.  The imagery is a tower “with its top in the sky” (Genesis 11:4) and brick steps leading up to a small temple of some type at the top.

Nathanael is hailed by Jesus for having no “duplicities.”  What a great personality to have, and one I think we all should strive for in all our endeavors.  Everyone has his or her own personality, and we all should be journeying towards being holy in this life, in order to be holy in the next.  The more we become holy, the closer we come to God.  I know that I am not even close to the holiness of Nathanael, our soon-to-be-a saint John Paul II, or even Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta; but with God’s grace we all can be led us to a wholeness – a completeness – with Him in paradise.

 

“Saint Michael the Archangel Prayer”

 

“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

Angels—messengers from God—appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named.

Michael appears in Daniel’s vision as “the great prince” who defends Israel against its enemies; in the Book of Revelation, he leads God’s armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion, rising in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.

Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel’s visions, announcing Michael’s role in God’s plan. His best-known appearance is an encounter with a young Jewish girl named Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.

Raphael’s activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit’s son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah’s marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit’s blindness and the restoration of the family fortune.

The memorials of Gabriel (March 24) and Raphael (October 24) were added to the Roman calendar in 1921. The 1970 revision of the calendar joined their feasts to Michael’s.

 

Comment:

Each of these archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God’s protection, communication and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly.

Quote:

“The question of how many angels could dance on the point of a pin no longer is absurd in molecular physics, with its discovery of how broad that point actually is, and what part invisible electronic ‘messengers’ play in the dance of life” (Lewis Mumford).

Patron Saint of: Death, Germany, Grocers, Police officers, & Radiologists

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Prologue to the Rule:

Exhortation of Saint Francis to the Brothers and Sisters in Penance

In the name of the Lord!

Chapter 1

Concerning Those Who Do Penance

All who love the Lord with their whole heart, with their whole soul and mind, with all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30), and love their neighbors as themselves (cf. Mt 22:39) and hate their bodies with their vices and sins, and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and produce worthy fruits of penance.

Oh, how happy and blessed are these men and women when they do these things and persevere in doing them, because “the spirit of the Lord will rest upon them” (cf. Is 11:2) and he will make “his home and dwelling among them” (cf Jn 14:23), and they are the sons of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:45), whose works they do, and they are the spouses, brothers, and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mt 12:50).

We are spouses, when by the Holy Spirit the faithful soul is united with our Lord Jesus Christ; we are brothers to him when we fulfill “the will of the Father who is in heaven” (Mt 12:50).

We are mothers, when we carry him in our heart and body (cf. 1 Cor 6:20) through divine love and a pure and sincere conscience; we give birth to him through a holy life which must give life to others by example (cf. Mt 5:16).

Oh, how glorious it is to have a great and holy Father in heaven! Oh, how glorious it is to have such a beautiful and admirable Spouse, the Holy Paraclete.

Oh, how glorious it is to have such a Brother and such a Son, loved, beloved, humble, peaceful, sweet, lovable, and desirable above all: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave up his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:15) and prayed to the Father saying:

“Oh, holy Father, protect them with your name (cf. Jn 17:11) whom you gave me out of the world. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me and they received it. They have known that in truth I came from you; they have believed that it was you who sent me. For these I pray, not for the world (cf. Jn 17:9). Bless and consecrate them, and I consecrate myself for their sakes. I do not pray for them alone; I pray also for those who will believe in me through their word (cf. Jn 17:20) that they may be holy by being one, as we are (cf. Jn 17:11). And I desire, Father, to have them in my company where I am to see this glory of mine in your kingdom” (cf. Jn 17:6-24).

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“One Day Rich and One Day Poor. In This Life or the Next!” – Luke 16:19-31†


   

I had an interesting and enjoyable time in Chicago this past Thursday through Saturday.  I was attending a workshop on “Justice and Peace in the Integration of Creation” (JPIC).  Though only about 20 people were present, literally all aspects of the Franciscan tradition were represented: OFM, Conv.; OFM; SFO; TOR; FSM, OSF; and lay people not “Officially” Franciscan except in heart, spirit, and soul – and without the strange initials behind their names.  

This was a learning experience for me in a unique way.  I will write later about my experience, but suffice it to say that being immersed in a very liberal (sorry, I meant “progressive”) group is mind-opening for me: an extremely CONSERVATIVE Catholic!!  I hope I did not aggravate or upset the others present with my viewpoints about “politics.”  If I did, I sincerely apologize.  We, as Franciscans, should be non-partisan (totally different than being non-political) in our ministry efforts.  

   

† 

   

“90 Days till CHRISTmas!!”

That is Less than 3 Months!!

              

Today in Catholic History:

  
    
†   1181 – Birth? of Saint Francis of Assisi, Italian founder of the Franciscan Order (d. 1226)
†   1468 – Death of Juan de Torquemada, Spanish Catholic cardinal (b. 1388)
†   1897 – Birth of Pope Paul VI, [Giovanni Montini], 262nd Roman Catholic pope (1963-78)

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

   

Quote or Joke of the Day:

   

Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever.


  

  

    

Today’s reflection is about Jesus tells the parable of the reversal of fortunes between the rich man and the poor man, Lazarus.

     

19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.  22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.  24 And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’  25 Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.  26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’  27 He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’  29 But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’  30 He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’  31 Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'”  (Luke 16:19-31)     

     

What do you have that can be shared with others?  Sometimes sharing is not easy, but is still absolutely necessary for entrance to God’s kingdom.  Why not make a commitment to share something soon, and share your possessions (your time, talent, &/or treasures) with someone in need.  Put a tear of joy in God’s eye!  

The major theme in today’s Gospel is the importance of the care of God’s creations; the care of the poor today – NOW – and not later!  In the parable above, Jesus contrasts the life of a rich man with a poor and sick man named Lazarus, who lives squalidly in the “shadow” of the rich man’s wealth and extravagance.  Both die, and Lazarus finds himself in heaven, with the rich man in the “netherworld.”  The rich man asks for assistance from Lazarus in his torment, but Abraham reminds the rich man of all the good things he had in his life, and then describes the current situation as a reversal of fortunes.  The rich man then asks Lazarus to go to warn his haughty and self-important family, but this is also refused with a prompt that Moses and the prophets had forewarned of judgment for those who neglect the care of the poor and indigent.  

The reversal of the fates of the rich man and Lazarus in the “netherworld” exemplifies the teachings of Jesus found in Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” (Luke 6:20-21, and 24-25).  With Luke, not only are the “Beatitudes” given to us, but, in addition a stern warning is pronounced about the evils of materialism (being “rich”).  

The “netherworld” was, to the Jewish people, the underworld: the place of the dead as contrasted with heaven.  The netherworld is not really “heaven” or “hell,” but a place where the “good” and “bad” souls are separated while waiting for the final judgment.  

This parable was probably delivered in the presence of a crowd of listeners, and is part of Jesus’ response to some Pharisees questions and accusations.  These Pharisees are portrayed in Luke’s Gospel as “loving money, prestige, and wealth.” They put less emphasis on Temple worship and devotion, and more importance on applying “the law” to the Jewish people’s everyday life; even though some shared many of Jesus’ concerns about the law.  Jesus observed that the actions of some Pharisees demonstrated misplaced priorities: they spoke one way, but acted in another.    

Abraham warned that if one did not listen to Moses and the prophets, they were doomed to eternal misery and separation from our creator, God.  There is a foreshadowing in this Gospel about rejecting the call to repentance, even after Jesus’ resurrection.  Not repenting is also not a smart thing to do:  the confessional has the “no waiting” sign out.  

The story of the rich man and Lazarus makes obvious, and shows the importance of the care of the poor, infirmed, and “forgotten” children of God.  It reminds those who would follow Jesus of the insignificance and inconsequentiality of wealth in the eyes of God.  

  

“Prayer of Wisdom from
St. Francis & St. Claire of Assisi”

   

“Jesus, following You is not always easy and carefree.  It requires something from me: I must follow your commands.  Often out of pride or convenience, I seek to follow my own will instead.  Lead me through the narrow gates.  Be merciful and soften my heart when I stubbornly refuse to follow You.  Remind me that life with You is well worth any cost I may incur in following You.  Amen.”

      

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

*****

   

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Sts. Cosmas and Damian (d. 303?)

   

Nothing is known of their lives except that they suffered martyrdom in Syria during the persecution of Diocletian.  

A church erected on the site of their burial place was enlarged by the emperor Justinian. Devotion to the two saints spread rapidly in both East and West. A famous basilica was erected in their honor in Constantinople. Their names were placed in the canon of the Mass, probably in the sixth century.  

Legend says that they were twin brothers born in Arabia, who became skilled doctors. They were among those who are venerated in the East as the “moneyless ones” because they did not charge a fee for their services. It was impossible that such prominent persons would escape unnoticed in time of persecution: They were arrested and beheaded.  

Nine centuries later, Francis of Assisi (October 4) rebuilt the dilapidated San Damiano chapel outside Assisi.  

Comment:  

For a long time, it seems, we have been very conscious of Jesus’ miracles as proofs of his divinity. What we sometimes overlook is Jesus’ consuming interest in simply healing people’s sickness, whatever other meaning his actions had. The power that “went out from him” was indeed a sign that God was definitively breaking into human history in final fulfillment of his promises; but the love of God was also concrete in a very human heart that was concerned about the suffering of his brothers and sisters. It is a reminder to Christians that salvation is for the whole person, the unique body-spirit unity.  

Quote:  

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).  

Patron Saint of barbers, pharmacists, physicians, and surgeons  

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)
  
      

 

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 25 & 26 of 26:

   

    

25.     Regarding expenses necessary for the life of the fraternity and the needs of worship, of the apostolate, and of charity, all the brothers and sisters should offer a contribution according to their means. Local fraternities should contribute toward the expenses of the higher fraternity councils.

 

   

 

26.     As a concrete sign of communion and co- responsibility, the councils on various levels, in keeping with the constitutions, shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.

To promote fidelity to the charism as well as observance of the rule and to receive greater support in the life of the fraternity, the minister or president, with the consent of the council, should take care to ask for a regular pastoral visit by the competent religious superiors as well as for a fraternal visit from those of the higher fraternities, according to the norm of the constitutions.  

 

“I Didn’t Get Any Travel Checks; This Trip Is Going To Be the Trip Of a Lifetime (+ More)!” – Luke 9:1-6†


 

I am leaving tomorrow for Chicago to attend a “Franciscan Action Network” (FAN) “Ours to DO” workshop.  This workshop is on “care for creation;” something very close to St. Francis and St. Clare’s heart and soul.  As I travel, please keep me in your prayers as I keep all of you, AND God, in mine.

What a “God-wink!”  I am preparing to journey in order to do God’s work on the same day the Gospel talks about the Twelve Apostles preparing to journey to continue Jesus’ work.

 

 

“94 Days till CHRISTmas!!”

            

Today in Catholic History:

    
†   530 – Boniface II begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   530 – St Felix IV ends his reign as Catholic Pope
†   530 – [Discorus] begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†   1774 – Pope Clement XIV (b. 1705) 1775 – Matthew Wright, executed for killing Pope Clement XIV
†   1915 – Xavier University, 1st Black Catholic College in US, opens in New Orleans, Louisiana

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

When God ordains, He sustains.

 

 

Courtesy of “the Brick testament”

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus sending the Twelve Apostles on their missions.

 

1 He [Jesus] summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (the sick).  3 He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.  4 Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.  5 And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.”  6 Then they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the good news and curing diseases everywhere.  (Luke 9:1-6)     

 

Being told “not” to take ANYTHING on a journey wrought with trials and tribulations; not to bother about the very things needed to make the journey possible – What was Jesus thinking?  After all, Jesus was not naive to the needs and wants of traveling.  He walked hundreds of miles proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom and knew what was needed for long journeys. 

The Twelve Apostles probably looked at each other in amazement; this made no sense to them.  But they also knew though that it is the trust in God that can make this, and anything else possible.  As Jesus promised in John 14:12: “… whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these ….”  

Jesus sends the Twelve out to continue the work that He Himself had been performing throughout his Galilean ministry.  They were fortified and properly prepared with the power and authority from the Holy Spirit for their continuation of Jesus’ work.  These men were to proclaim the kingdom as Jesus did, and as related in such Gospels verses as Luke 4:43 and Luke 8:1: “But he [Jesus] said to them [the Apostles], ‘To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.’” and “Afterward he [Jesus] journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve.” 

The Apostles were now commissioned to exorcise (to purge) demons as Jesus did in such Gospel verses as in Luke’s 4:33-37, 41 and Luke 8:26-39: 33 In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, 34 ‘Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!’  35 Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘Be quiet!  Come out of him!’  Then the demon threw the man down in front of them and came out of him without doing him any harm.  36 They were all amazed and said to one another, ‘What is there about his word?  For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.’  37 And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.’” and “41 Demons also came out from many, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God.’ But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Messiah.”  

Jesus carried out many exorcisms during his earthly ministry.  He is now extending His ability, His grace, to the Twelve Apostles.  He gave them the exclusive authority to wrestle humanity from the evil spirits dwelling among us, and ravenously hungry for our souls.  This authority has been passed on, without any break, to the Catholic priests and bishops via an irreversible and permanent “mark” on their souls when anointed with the Holy Spirit during their profession and ordination.

Luke 8:26-39 tells of a man possessed by demons.  He was naked and lived among the tombs.  Jesus ordered the unclean spirits to come out him.  When Jesus asked, “What is your name?” the man replied, “Legion.”  (A Roman legion during this period consisted of 5,000 to 6,000 foot soldiers; hence the name implies a very large number of demons.)  Wow – how many demons can a man hold?  From a medical viewpoint, would this be called “polydemonena?”  (I don’t think Medicare would cover this.)

A herd of many swine was feeding nearby.  With Jesus’ demand, the demons left the possessed man and entered these swine, and then the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.  Surprisingly, the entire population of this “Gentile” region (because of the presence of pigs – unclean animals for Jews) asked Jesus to leave because they were overwhelmed with a great fear of Him.  So, Jesus got into a boat and left the area.

Finally, Jesus gave the Twelve Apostles the authority to heal the sick as He did many, many times. In Luke’s Gospels alone, chapters 4 – 8 have large sections devoted solely to the healing ministry of Jesus.  Jesus was the first “paramedic:” going to the people to help them in times of distress.

Luke 4:38-40 is about healing Simon’s (Peter) mother; Luke 5:12-16 is about curing the leper; Luke 5:17-26 the paralyzed man; Luke 6:6-10 talks about Jesus fixing a man whose right hand was withered; Luke 7:1-10 is about curing the Centurions slave – an act we remember at every mass just before receiving communion, when we proclaim, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you.”  Finally, also in Luke 4:40, Jesus again heals a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, AND a synagogue officials daughter that died; Jesus directed the 12-year-old daughter to rise – and she did!  I did not even include the “famous” “Lazarus resurrection” story.

Jesus ordered the twelve chosen Apostles of Jesus Christ to take nothing for the journey.  This affirms the absolute detachment from materialism that is required of any disciple – any follower of Jesus Christ – treading their personal paths to redemption and salvation.  In Luke 14:33 it is written, “In the same way, every one of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”   Leaving the temporal aspects of our lives behind, in due course, leads one to a complete reliance on God.

Jesus, in Luke 12:22-31, relates God’s belief towards temporal and spiritual needs.  With God, living is more than the acts of finding food and clothing for the body.  God knows that all the people of the world seek material and physically life sustaining things.  God the Father truly knows that we need these things in order to live.  BUT, we MUST seek His kingdom first, and then the materialistic things we need will be given to us besides.

God wants us to be His instrument: for Him to work through, in, and with us.  His power is manifested to the world through our actions.  We only need to respond with a faith that allows Him to do this work through us.  It is not really “us” doing the work at all, just as it wasn’t the Twelve Apostles dependence on the food, money, housing, and so on that sustained them in their ministry and mission.

Towards the end of His instructions to the chosen Twelve, Jesus tells these brave and hope-filled men to “shake the dust from their feet” if not welcomed in a town.  Shaking the dust from one’s feet is a gesture of that time period to indicate a complete disassociation from unbelievers – a total “diss” as my children would say.  A disassociation is literally a termination of any association with that town and/or people: a denial of any connection or involvement with anyone or anything from that town.

How often have we shaken the dirt of Jesus’ path from our feet, as we left His lead, to blaze our own (and usually easier) trail away from God?  How often has Jesus stopped in His tracks, and waited patiently for us to return to Him and our journey to paradise that He leads us too?  Jesus can never leave us – only we can leave Him!!

We need to learn how to depend on His power and grace more than we depend on our worldly skills and possessions!  God wants His wonders, and His miracles, to be a regular part of our life.  Our path, our journey, can be extremely hard at times.  Jesus wants us to know that He is with us, helping us up when we fall, and carrying us when needed, as we walk this path with Him.

 

“Prayer for Travelers”

 

“O Almighty and merciful God, who hast commissioned Thy angels to guide and protect us, command them to be our assiduous companions from our setting out until our return; to clothe us with their invisible protection; to keep from us all danger of collision, of fire, of explosion, of fall and bruises, and finally, having preserved us from all evil, and especially from sin, to guide us to our heavenly home.  Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions (1600?-1637)

 

Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter.

His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that “he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him.”

At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan.

They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, “I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there.” In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution.

They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears.

The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions.

In Lorenzo’s moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, “I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life.” The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.

The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded.

Pope John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.

 

Comment:

We ordinary Christians of today—how would we stand up in the circumstances these martyrs faced? We sympathize with the two who temporarily denied the faith. We understand Lorenzo’s terrible moment of temptation. But we see also the courage—unexplainable in human terms—which surged from their store of faith. Martyrdom, like ordinary life, is a miracle of grace.

Quote:

When government officials asked, “If we grant you life, will you renounce your faith?,” Lorenzo responded: “That I will never do, because I am a Christian, and I shall die for God, and for him I will give many thousands of lives if I had them. And so, do with me as you please.”

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 22 & 23 of 26:

 

22.     The local fraternity is to be established canonically. It becomes the basic unit of the whole Order and a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members.

 

23.     Requests for admission to the Secular Franciscan Order must be presented to the local fraternity, whose council decides upon the acceptance of new brothers and sisters.
Admission into the Order is gradually attained through a time of initiation, a period of formation of at least one year, and profession of the rule. The entire community is engaged in the process of growth by its own manner of living. The age for profession and the distinctive Franciscan sign are regulated by the statutes.
Profession by its nature is a permanent commitment.
Members who find themselves in particular difficulties should discuss their problems with the council in fraternal dialogue. Withdrawal or permanent dismissal from the Order, if necessary, is an act of the fraternity council according to the norm of the constitutions.

“Mary, Did You Know ….!” – Luke 2:33-35†


 

Today is the Feast of “Our Lady of Sorrows”

 

By tradition, the Catholic Church dedicates each month of the year to certain devotions.  This month, it is “Our Lady of Sorrows.” The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows takes place today, the day after the “Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.” We are to remember the suffering Mary endured as she stood at the foot of the Cross and witnessed the humiliation, torture, and death of her Son.

  

            †

 

Yesterday, (and 1 week shy of six months of trying), I weighed myself and officially passed the “century” mark by a half-pound.  100 Lbs lost in 51 weeks has actually been fairly easy for me.  My mind set is healthy living, and never using that four letter word that is not even allowed to be uttered in my house – “DIET!”  After all, “DIET” is 75% “DIE.”  I am on a “LIVING” plan with God’s help (and yours).

Basically, All I have done is to stop eating processed foods and deep-fried items.  I eat whole grains, low-glycemic veggies and fruit, a lot of fish and chicken, a little pork, and very little beef.  Also careful of any sauces and all sodium levels.  Along with exercise (I love swimming) and journaling all food and exercise, I pray a lot!!

 

Today in Catholic History:

 
    
†  608 – St Boniface IV begins his reign as Catholic Pope
†  1352 – Death of Ewostatewos, Ethiopian monk and religious leader (b. 1273)
†  1803 – Death of Gian Francesco Albani, Italian Catholic cardinal (b. 1719)
†  1859 – Death of John LA Luyten, Catholic Member of Dutch 2nd parliament, dies at 72

 

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com) &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Suffering with truth decay?  Brush up on your Bible.

  

 

Today’s reflection is about Mary’s sorrows for Jesus, and for all of us in need.

 

33 The child’s father [Joseph] and mother [Mary] were amazed at what was said about him [Jesus]; 34 and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted 35 (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”    (Luke 2:33-35)

 

On this upcoming December 1st, my wife and I will be celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary.  I can still remember kneeling next to her on the altar, holding her beautiful hands, and vowing to God that I will “love, cherish, and keep her in sickness and in health ….”  God also said the same vows that day to both of us.  My covenant with Jeanine is also a covenant with God – the ultimate, and only papal approved, love triangle.

My love has yet to cease increasing in intensity for her with each and every day.  I still consider us in our honeymoon period!  But boy, was I naïve on that happy day!  Our day-to-day relationship has also had some serious setbacks, disappointments, and challenges that had to be mutually surmounted.  Marriage, though wonderful and exciting it its own nature, is also extremely hard work – something I could not truly realize twenty years ago!  True love is patient, kind, generous, and triumphs through, and over, all the bad times.

I do not believe it would be wrong to state that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most blessed and honored person to come from God – the “twinkle” in His eye!  It is hard for me to even picture in my mind the extreme joy and glee Mary had in the role of being God’s mother, and the challenges for her that this role also encountered.  Mary had to frequently contemplate and wonder about both hers and Jesus’ life, but also treasured the words and actions she saw unfolding before her very eyes as Jesus grew to adulthood and throughout His public ministry.

She also experienced the deepest and most profound of human sorrows.  Mary was not untouched by the various reactions and consequences in the role of being Jesus’ mother.  Her blessedness as mother of the Lord was challenged by her son Jesus who describes true blessedness as “hearing the word of God and observing it.”  In Luke 11:27-28, a woman in the crowd called out to Jesus saying, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.”  His reply, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”  

This saying by Jesus Christ, a true beatitude, should in no way what-so-ever be inferred as an admonishment of His mother. Rather, it emphasizes that attention to God’s word is more important than any biological relationship to Him: Jesus.  This is what is meant in verse 35, “(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” 

In Luke 8:20-21, Jesus was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.”  His reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”  The universal (Catholic) family of Jesus does not necessarily involve a physical relationship with Him but as one of obedience to the word of God.  Luke softened Mark’s genealogical picture of Jesus’ family, I think because Mary had already been presented as the “obedient handmaid of the Lord” who fulfilled the requirement for belonging to the eschatological family of Jesus (Luke 1:38).

Mary embraced her role in salvation that God had laid out for her, and throughout her entire life continued to live by a total and unconditional love and faith in God.  She never lost her virtue-laden gifts of joy and hope, even during the darkest times of hers and Jesus’ life.

Mary is NOT “Our Lady of Sorrows” solely because of all the horrific and dreadful times she went through, but also because she allowed and encouraged her heart and soul to be intertwined with the heart and divinity of God.  Mary understood how truly intensive God’s heart and desire is for all His creation.  God is aching and pining with an un-measurable love for His wayward people. 

Mary’s heart was pierced by the sight of Jesus’ suffering AND by all the suffering in the world!  Her heart is still pierced yet today!  She continues to weep over all the devastating, overwhelming, and severe needs of this world.  And even today, she still intercedes with her Son in heaven.  Mary IS the mother of anyone who suffers in any way.  She IS OUR mother, and she loves us all as only a mother can!

 

“To the Mother of Sorrows”

 

“Most holy Virgin and Mother, whose soul was pierced by a sword of sorrow in the Passion of thy divine Son, and who in His glorious Resurrection was filled with never-ending joy at His triumph; obtain for us who call upon thee, so to may be partakers in the adversities of Holy Church and the sorrows of the Sovereign Pontiff, as to be found worthy to rejoice with them in the consolation for which we pray, in the charity and peace of the same Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Our Lady of Sorrows

 

For a while there were two feasts in honor of the Sorrowful Mother: one going back to the 15th century, the other to the 17th century. For a while both were celebrated by the universal Church: one on the Friday before Palm Sunday, the other in September.

The principal biblical references to Mary’s sorrows are in Luke 2:35 and John 19:26-27. The Lucan passage is Simeon’s prediction about a sword piercing Mary’s soul; the Johannine passage relates Jesus’ words to Mary and to the beloved disciple.

Many early Church writers interpret the sword as Mary’s sorrows, especially as she saw Jesus die on the cross. Thus, the two passages are brought together as prediction and fulfillment.

St. Ambrose (December7) in particular sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the cross. Mary stood fearlessly at the cross while others fled. Mary looked on her Son’s wounds with pity, but saw in them the salvation of the world. As Jesus hung on the cross, Mary did not fear to be killed but offered herself to her persecutors.

 

Comment:

John’s account of Jesus’ death is highly symbolic. When Jesus gives the beloved disciple to Mary, we are invited to appreciate Mary’s role in the Church: She symbolizes the Church; the beloved disciple represents all believers. As Mary mothered Jesus, she is now mother to all his followers. Furthermore, as Jesus died, he handed over his Spirit. Mary and the Spirit cooperate in begetting new children of God—almost an echo of Luke’s account of Jesus’ conception. Christians can trust that they will continue to experience the caring presence of Mary and Jesus’ Spirit throughout their lives and throughout history.

Quote:

“At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.
Through her heart, his sorrow sharing,
All his bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.”
(Stabat Mater)

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 15 & 16 of 26:

 

15.  Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

 

 

16.  Let them esteem work both as a gift and as a sharing in the creation, redemption, and service of the humancommunity.

“When Lost, Hug HIS Tree!” – Luke 15:1-10†


 

God, Please Bless America!!

September 11, 2001 needs to be forever remembered!!

 

Individuals have the “right” to build a Mosque near “ground-zero,” or even to burn books such as the “Koran,” but that does not make it necessarily “Right!”

Remember the “Pieta” and “Our Lady of Sorrows.”  Picture the victims of this tragic act of violence in our loving Blessed Virgin Mother’s lap, instead of the usually pictured infant Jesus. (Taken, in part, from a letter by Fr. Pio Jackson, OFM)

 

 

Next week will be my first anniversary of writing these reflections.  With 258 postings as of today, my knowledge and piety for Holy Scripture has vastly increased.  I have grown to love reading my Bible (yes, I am a catholic WITH a Bible – actually I have several).  The 73 books of the Bible are amazing reads and valuable sources of information, inspiration, and spirituality.  I cannot tell you how many “God-winks” I have experienced in my journey through Scripture.  God truly does work in mysterious ways.

Thank you again for reading, and for commenting on my reflections.  I pray that you have been helped or inspired by my words.  Actually, I should not use the word “my” as I firmly believe that I am not creating these reflections.  I am allowing the Holy Spirit to work through me, and I love the fact that the Paraclete is so lovingly intertwined into my soul and body.  Thank you Lord, my God and my all; I love and trust in you always.

 

            

Today in Catholic History:

      
†   1690 – Birth of Peter Dens, Belgian Catholic theologian (d. 1775)
†   1960 – John F. Kennedy avers he does not speak for the Roman Catholic Church, and neither does the Church speak for him.

(From “Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

Where will you stand in eternity?  Smoking or Non-Smoking!

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Jesus’ response to the Pharisees and Scribes criticizing Him for keeping company with the poor and dreads of society.

 

1 The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him [Jesus}, 2 but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  3 So to them he addressed this parable.  4 “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?  5 And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.  8 “Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it?  9 And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’  10 In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  (Luke 15:1-10)

 

Jesus in today’s Gospel relates two of three parables about losing, finding, and rejoicing.  There are two fairly obvious themes with these readings today.  The first focuses on God’s desire that all of us who may be lost will be found and return to Him.  The second spotlights on OUR calling to search for the “lost sheep or coin” and bring them home to God.

The Pharisees and Scribes were mumbling about Jesus’ followers.  Jesus wasn’t just drawing those interested in discussing religious matters on an intellectual level, or even the particulars of the temple law.  These followers were not only the regular synagogue and temple worshiping crowd, but also a “new” circle of people altogether.  Up till this point, many followers of Jesus would not have been considered a traditionally pious people.  These individuals of various piety levels were gathering to Him — like hair on soap, and it wasn’t just a few either. The outcasts of Jewish society like the lepers, Samaritans, Gentiles, tax-collectors, and other sinners all approached Jesus with a genuine eagerness to hear what he had to say and teach.  

Their “hearing” Jesus’ message started a movement towards conversion for these “outcast heathens.” This “hearing” stands in stark contrast to the “hearing” of Jesus’ fellow “chosen ones” who have heard and not believed.  These Pharisees and Scribes are being cautious and suspicious of Jesus; they complain about His associating with “sinners” and the other dreads of society.  These Pharisees and Scribes were not used to mixing with these “worthless” people following Jesus.  They considered these people as “unclean;” and to be in contact or involved with them would bring uncleanness on them as well.  Jesus’ insight about these “Pharisaical attitudes” is deliciously revealing in these three parables (only two of which are presented in this reflection). 

The parable of the lost sheep in today’s Gospel is also found in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 18:12-14); but Luke adds two additional parables: “the lost coin parable” in Luke 15:8-10, and “the prodigal son parable” found later in this chapter (Luke 15:11-32).  These two additional stories are from Luke’s own special tradition of faith.  Luke illustrates Jesus’ particular concern for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” and for God’s love for every repentant sinner.  In His parables, Jesus takes real life reactions and turns them into a spiritual understanding and application.

Jesus is acting out the very character of his Father, God!  He does much more than simply accepting these “lost” people; Jesus welcomes them and even eats with them, which in His time and culture meant much more than just a meal.  It is a special meal of welcome and recognition for that individual.  There’s nothing wimpy about Jesus’ actions, attitude, or love for all people, especially the poor and suffering. He actively welcomes people who might normally expect rejection from other “teachers”.  

In the first story of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaves behind the ninety-nine sheep to search for the lowly lost sheep that had left its flock.  When he finds it, the shepherd rejoices, but NOT just by himself, as suggested in Matthew’s version.  Instead, he rejoices with his friends and neighbors.  In this same way, God rejoices more over the lowly sinner, similarly lost, who repents.  In this group were the “heroes,” the non-Jews, outcasts, and tax collectors who have come to hear, really hear, Jesus.  Jesus reveals that there is joy in heaven; and that there is even more joy over the outcasts repentance than the righteous, unrepentant, ninety-nine who think they have no need for a change of heart.

The Jewish people have always been a shepherding clan of people, going all the way back to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Sheep were raised for wool, meat, and for holy sacrifices.  A hundred sheep (99 + 1, Hmm) would be a fairly normal size for a herder.  In Jesus’ parable, the herder was probably counting his herd and finds one missing.  Leaving the ninety-nine, he goes off looking for the “one” lost sheep until he finds it.  There is no blame directed towards the sheep that went lost; the emphasis of the story is on the joyfulness of the event when the lost is found. The point Jesus was making is quite simple and elegant: the pious people of Israel are not necessarily the lost sheep in this parable!  The tax collectors and sinners are the real lost sheep for whom Jesus was sent!

The second story is about a woman who is so poor that she will not stop searching for her lost coins until she finds them.  How many of us have searched through the deep recesses of our furniture and cars, just for a little spending change?  This is an allegorical story to me; it makes a similar but much stronger point than the first parable. 

This lady in the parable was poor.  She was poor of materialistic needs and possibly poor of spiritual needs as well.  In her searching of all the deep recesses of her life (represented by her home), she made a total examination of her life, consciousness, spirituality, and immediate possible future.  She re-examined every part of her being (her home), and finally finding what she had lost: her conviction and belief in a loving and true God (represented by the ten coins).  In her repentance of the past, her conversion in the present, and a new belief in a loving God that is forever present with her in a unique way, she found a new freedom and wealth never before experienced.  This woman is now joyful and celebrates her “new” life with others, (her brothers and sisters in Christ) who believe as she.

In this second parable when Jesus talks about ten coins, He is literally talking about, “ten drachmas.”  A drachma was a Greek silver coin of the time period.  The drachma may not have been in circulation during Jesus’ time of public ministry in Israel, but Luke’s readers would know what a drachma was the few decades later when Luke wrote his Gospel. A drachma was worth about the same as a Roman denarius: an average day’s wage; so she was looking for ten days wages.

In studying the meaning of biblical numbers, “ten” is one of the “perfect” numbers.  It signifies the “perfection,” or fullness of divinity and a completeness of right order.  In other words, this number implies total and complete wholeness.  As I saw myself in these stories, I saw myself searching through the recesses of my memory, looking for something I know I need but don’t have; then I remembered finding my treasure: it being the love of, and for, Jesus Christ.  It was then that I realized that through these parables we all are being led to a totally perfected, complete, and wholesome soul full of joy at an eternal celebration with Him in paradise.

We are not covering the third parable in this reflection today.  You will have to wait; but I guarantee a doozy of a reflection with this story from Jesus.  All I can say is that it involves sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll!  It will make you laugh; it will make you cry.  It will be rated a five-star reflection on the “God-O-Matic” Meter!  How is this for a cliff-hanger to get you back for future reflections?!

When we are lost, God doesn’t wait for our return. He actively seeks us out. And when His “lost sheep” are found, how could He not celebrate and rejoice?  Jesus’ role is not only one of group redemption and salvation, but that it begins with a “one-by-one,” “person-by-person,” “search and rescue” mission.  That was Jesus’ undertaking on earth in His human AND divine fullness.

If you ask your children who are scouts, or if you are one of the few parents that volunteers as a scout leader, you have probably been taught what to do when lost in the woods: literally, “hug-a-tree.” You know that this means to stay put exactly where you are so others can find you more easily.  Just as any parent would go to any length to find a loved one and bring them home, so too would God.  That is what Jesus is telling us in these stories!  No matter what we do, no matter how bad or wrong we are, God, our infinitely good and loving Father, is always ready and anxious to find and forgive us.  He desires to welcome us back into His loving arms.  In fact, He actively draws us back to Himself.

Remember; Jesus is acting out the very character of his Father, God.  An essential part of God’s character is His extending mercy and love to the “undeserving” of society.  His mission is not only to welcome those who are searching for Him, but also to actually seek the injured, the sick, the oppressed, the blind, the imprisoned, and those who may not be searching for Him.  God really does go to great lengths in order to rescue us.  Our souls are worth all risks for Him.  How does Jesus live this role yet today?  The answer is, I believe a part of His initial plan unveiled two thousand years ago: the Holy Cross of our salvation and redemption — the message of true and active love for all creation still yet today.

If geographically lost, do not forget to “hug-a-tree.”  When lost on our faith journey, the same advice is true: “Hug a tree” — the tree of salvation and redemption — Jesus’ Cross!  He will be more than happy to hug you, and bring you to safety.

 

“St. Francis’ Prayer Before the Crucifix”

 

Most high,
glorious God,
let your light fill the shadows of my heart
and grant me, Lord,
true faith,
certain hope,
perfect love,
awareness and knowing,
that I may fulfill Your holy will.  Amen.

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary

  

This feast is a counterpart to the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus (January 3); both have the possibility of uniting people easily divided on other matters.

The feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary began in Spain in 1513 and in 1671 was extended to all of Spain and the Kingdom of Naples. In 1683, John Sobieski, king of Poland, brought an army to the outskirts of Vienna to stop the advance of Muslim armies loyal to Mohammed IV in Constantinople. After Sobieski entrusted himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he and his soldiers thoroughly defeated the Muslims. Pope Innocent XI extended this feast to the entire Church.

 

Comment:

Mary always points us to God, reminding us of God’s infinite goodness. She helps us to open our hearts to God’s ways, wherever those may lead us. Honored under the title “Queen of Peace,” Mary encourages us to cooperate with Jesus in building a peace based on justice, a peace that respects the fundamental human rights (including religious rights) of all peoples.

Quote:

“Lord our God, when your Son was dying on the altar of the cross, he gave us as our mother the one he had chosen to be his own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary; grant that we who call upon the holy name of Mary, our mother, with confidence in her protection may receive strength and comfort in all our needs” (Marian Sacramentary, Mass for the Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

 

    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 12 & 13 of 26:

 

12.  Witnessing to the good yet to come and obligated to acquire purity of heart because of the vocation they have embraced, they should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters.

 

 

13.  As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

 

A sense of community will make them joyful and ready to place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly for whom they shall strive to create conditions of life worthy of people redeemed by Christ.

“That Darn Butterfly Flapped His Wing In the Rainforest, and Now I’m Overweight!”– Mt 1:18-23†


 

Did you sing happy birthday to Mary.  Today’s Gospel reading is about the nativity of Jesus, but the Mass is in honor of our Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Everyone, please give me input on what you like, didn’t like, would like, or any other “like” I may have missed!  I am totally serious – I am writing this reflection blog for you as much as for me.  I truly need your input!!!  Please, please, please leave a comment on this blog site, or on my Facebook page.  Thank you again, I love you all.  Dan

 

Today in Catholic History:

    
    
†   70 – Titus, General of Rome, sacks Jerusalem. See also: Destruction of Jerusalem.
†   701 – Death of Pope Sergius I
†   801 – Birth of Ansgar, German Catholic archbishop (d. 865)
†   1565 – The Knights of Malta lift the Turkish siege of Malta (the Siege of Malta started on May 18).
†   1853 – Death of Frédéric Ozanam, founder of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (b. 1813)
†   In Malta today – Feast of Our Lady of Victories (il-Vittorja); anniversary of the 1565 victory of the Knights of Malta over the Ottoman Empire; anniversary of the 1943 surrender of Italy to the Allied forces, marking the end of World War II hostilities on Malta.†  

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com)

 

Quote or Joke of the Day:

 

“JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON”

 

 

 

Today’s reflection is about Counting the days till CHRISTmas.

 

18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.  19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” (Mt 1:18-23)

 

108 days till CHRISTmas!  One of my unique gifts in life is that I can pretty much tell you almost instantly how many days till this beautiful and magnanimous day at any time throughout the year.  I love the CHRISTmas season.  The pomp and circumstances, the beauty, the peace, and the message all create a special place in my heart for me. 

When I was young, I lived for the secular side of this holiday: the cookies, the gifts, the eggnog, the gifts, the decorations, the gifts, the music, and the gifts.  Now I live for the spiritual side: the pageant of God coming to us as promised for centuries before (but I still like getting gifts at any time).

Decorations are being set-up in the major stores as I write this.  Holiday commercials on television are rare for NOW, but have started already.  And soon, a local radio station will start playing CHRISTmas music 24/7 until New Years Day.  Oh, what a beautiful season of the year.  Why can’t we always have the spirit of this season throughout the entire year!  That would be so nice.

Today’s Gospel reading recounts Jesus’ birth.  His life is a true reality in body, blood, soul, AND divinity; and is still true regardless of the time of the year, or for the year for that matter.  Jesus needs to be reborn in our hearts and souls on a daily basis.  We need to convert our wayward actions, and commit to following Him on a daily basis.  Decorations and music from a specific season are not needed to encounter the beauty, joy, AND the TRUE REALITY of our blessed Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Can you picture how much care and divine planning God took in bringing His plan of coming to us in a human and divine form – for our salvation – to fruition?  How many events, actions, and interactions had to take place before Jesus could come into our lives?  How many people had to play out their roles in order to prepare the way for the fulfillment of all of God’s promises?

How many events, actions, and interactions had to come together before we were born?  Events in the world such as past war, famine, slavery, and travel affected our birth and being.  Hmm — That darn butterfly flapped his wing in the rainforest, and now I’m overweight! 

Seriously through, God’s interaction, His plan, shaped our families the moment we were each born.  None of us are an “accident.”  We are all instruments in God’s divine plan.  We did not just “show up” for we had a history prior to our birth and a future even after our deaths!  Besides the act of murder that is performed with each abortion and euthanasia act, I see the devastating component of the purposeful destruction of God’s plan.

Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is in fact, the work of the “Holy Spirit” of God: the Advocate, the Paraclete – the third person of the Holy Trinity.  Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary is swept away by an angelic command through a dream, telling him to take Mary into his home and to accept the child as his own.  

The promises made to King David centuries before are fulfilled through this particular man named Joseph.  Through Joseph’s adoption, the child belongs to the legal and thus genealogical family of King David.  

Matthew shows the virginal conception of the young teenage Mary as the fulfillment of prophesies found in the Old Testaments book of Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”   The Holy Spirit acting on, in, and through this young Mary was manifesting the future birth of our Messiah.  His birth alone fulfilled God’s divinely given stipulations as prophesied in Old Testament writings regarding “Emmanuel’s” [Jesus’] mission on earth.  Also, Matthew stresses that in the perpetual virginity of the Mother of God – this young and sin-free Mary, an important substance of fact is fulfilled in the words of Isaiah’s divine prophetic wisdom: Mary’s Immaculate Conception had to be without any doubt of faith and without carnal action for Jesus to also be born sin-free. 

Jesus’ ancestors didn’t have a clue that they were going to be significant in history, and forever immortalized in Holy Scripture.  I bet Mary didn’t understand or even totally perceive her role and significance as she was growing up in her home town of Nazareth.  As she embraced her role later in life, she saw the wisdom emanating from Jesus, and adored His counsel and love as her Son and God

What is meant by the term, “Betrothed to Joseph” in verse 18.   Betrothal was the first part of a “marriage covenant” between Jewish people in that time, place, and era.  It established a man and woman legally as husband and wife.  But, the couple at this point usually still lived in separate households, and the marriage was not consummated at this time.  But, by being legally married any subsequent “infidelity” was considered an act and sin of adultery and subject to the penalty of divorce with possible death by stoning for the guilty.  A “betrothal” was followed some time later (even months or years) by the husband’s taking his wife into his home.  At this time, our perception of a normal married life finally begins in a form we would recognize by today’s standards.  This also the time, the husband learns the married man’s mantra: “Yes dear!”

Being a devout observer of Mosaic Law, Joseph was considered a “righteous man.”  He initially wanted to sever his union with Mary whom he suspected of violating the law.  Realistically, Jewish law may have required him to do so.  In Deut. 22:20-21, “But if this charge is true, and evidence of the girl’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death, because she committed a crime against Israel by her un-chasteness in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.“  But, does this biblical law truly pertain to Joseph’s situation; though pregnant, she was still a virgin!?  Unwilling to expose Mary to shame Joseph was also unwilling to order the penalty for adultery: death by stoning.

“The angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament was a common designation for God in interaction with a human being.  An angel coming to a human in a dream, specifically Joseph, happens several times in Matthew’s Gospel. 

Mathew 2:13 has the angel ordering Mary and Joseph to flee with the infant Jesus to Egypt after being warned in a dream.  Matthew 2:19, tells of the dream to Joseph in which the angel advises him that Herod had died.  And finally, Matthew 2:22 has the angel advising Joseph to take his “Holy Family” to Galilee and not to Judea in a dream.   

For me, these dreams recall those of the Joseph from the Old Testament (Genesis).  This other Joseph, in his multi-colored robes, also had prophetic and divinely directive dreams. 

The conspicuous similarities between the birth stories of Moses and Jesus are striking. There are obvious parallels existing between the New Testament nativity story and the tale in Moses Exodus:

1. In Matthew 2:13-14, Herod was going to search for the child to destroy him, so Joseph took the child and his mother and went away.  In Exodus 2:15, Pharaoh sought to do away with Moses, so Moses went away.

2. Herod’s massacre of the boys in Bethlehem corresponds to the Pharaoh’s command to throw the Hebrew children into the Nile River.

3. In Matthew 2:19, Herod dies.  In Exodus 2:23, the King of Egypt was a position that existed in some form from approximately 3200 BC to the mid 20th century.

4. In Matthew 2:19-20, the angel of the Lord (in a dream) says to Joseph (while exiled in Egypt), “Go back to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”  The language is similar to Exodus 4:19, “The Lord said to Moses while in Midian, ‘Return to Egypt, for those who were seeking your life are dead.‘”

A closer parallel is the dream of Amram, the father of Moses, as related by Josephus in the “Antiquities of the Jews.”  The Midrashic (a Jewish way of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal or moral teachings) tales of Moses offer additional counterparts between the birth of Jesus and that of Moses:

1. The impending birth of each is announced to Herod and Pharaoh respectively, and both rulers are filled with “dread” at this news.

2. Amram (Moses’ father) is told that his wife will give birth to a son who will save Israel.  Joseph is told that Mary’s son will be called Jesus “for he will save the people from their sins.” The name “Jesus” was the Hebrew name Joshua (and the Greek Iesous) meaning “Yahweh helps,” and was interpreted as “Yahweh saves.”

3. The birth of Jesus is heralded by a star, and at the birth of Moses there is great light.

4. From the start, both Jesus and Moses are recognized as extraordinary people.

5. Joseph marries Mary while she is pregnant.  An interesting parallel can be found in a cryptic statement of the Talmud that Amram married (actually remarried) while his bride was already pregnant (with Moses).

“Emmanuel” translates from Hebrew to “God is with us.”  God’s promise of deliverance to the Jewish people in Isaiah’s time is seen by Matthew as being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus.  The name “Emmanuel” is also alluded to at the end of the Matthew’s Gospel (28:20) wherein the Risen Jesus assures his disciples of his continued presence by saying,”. . . I am with you always, until the end of the age.” 

The promise of Jesus’ real presence for all time echoes the name Emmanuel given to him in today’s infancy narrative.  Emmanuel -“God is with us” – will always be with us, “until the end of the age.” (Bible trivia: The phrase, “the end of the age” is found only in Matthew’s Gospel [13:40, 49; 24:3; and 28:20]).

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, I have strengthened my belief that our lives are interlaced into God’s plan for the world.  Look outside the “box” of our lives, and look around at God’s plan.  He has great things designed and intended for each of us. 

Earlier, I reflected on Mary’s evolution to the realization of Jesus’ role in salvation, and how she sought His counsel and love.  His counsel and love is for all of us also.  We just need to choose to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and then watch as His plan unfolds before our very eyes!

 

“The Serenity Prayer”

 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next.  Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

*****

 

A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

 

The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 (nine months earlier).

Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth. However, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child that will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. Such a story (like many biblical counterparts) stresses the special presence of God in Mary’s life from the beginning.

St. Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary’s Son as the dawn of our salvation and asks for an increase of peace.

 

Comment:

We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God’s love and peace to the world.

This is all true in a magnificent way in Mary. If Jesus is the perfect expression of God’s love, Mary is the foreshadowing of that love. If Jesus has brought the fullness of salvation, Mary is its dawning.

Birthday celebrations bring happiness to the celebrant as well as to family and friends. Next to the birth of Jesus, Mary’s birth offers the greatest possible happiness to the world. Each time we celebrate her birth we can confidently hope for an increase of peace in our hearts and in the world at large.

 

Quote:

“Today the barren Anna claps her hands for joy, the earth radiates with light, kings sing their happiness, priests enjoy every blessing, the entire universe rejoices, for she who is queen and the Father’s immaculate bride buds forth from the stem of Jesse” (adapted from Byzantine Daily Worship).

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From
http://www.americancatholic.org website)

 
    

Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #’s 8 & 9 of 26:

 

8.     As Jesus was the true worshipper of the Father, so let prayer and contemplation be the soul of all they are and do.

 Let them participate in the sacramental life of the Church, above all the Eucharist. Let them join in liturgical prayer in one of the forms proposed by the Church, reliving the mysteries of the life of Christ.

 

9.     The Virgin Mary, humble servant of the Lord, was open to His every word and call. She was embraced by Francis with indescribable love and declared the protectress and advocate of his family. The Secular Franciscans should express their ardent love for her by imitating her complete self-giving and by praying earnestly and confidently.